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May 1, 2007

Under The Knife

The Speed of Time

by Will Carroll

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Is it May already? Time seems to move at different paces for different things. It can go blissfully slowly when I'm sitting on the patio listening to remastered Jimi Hendrix on the iPod. It can go on forever when I'm getting 30 questions a minute during a chat. It can fly by when we're watching game after game streamed to our laptops via wi-fi while sitting at the local Starbucks. The one thing about baseball that's very different for me on video (I've stopped thinking of it as being on TV) is that in person, I tend to watch one player more than others. Sometimes it's the shortstop, trying to read the pitch from his positioning. More often than not it's the pitcher, but that's just my own bias. When time seems to go too fast is when I'm approaching deadline and waiting on a callback to get that one piece of information I need.

Powered by the Panasonic Real Pro Elite, on to the injuries:

  • Matthew Leach is one of those writers that makes my job really easy. Among a great group of writers in St. Louis that includes Bernie Miklasz and Derrick Goold, Leach often simply just does my job for me or reduces me to merely linking to him. As you'll see in his article, the Cardinals got some good news on Chris Carpenter-it appears that rest is working. The big test, how his elbow would react after throwing from the mound, was passed. Now, Carpenter will begin working in earnest towards a return. The important thing to remember here is that the chips are still in his elbow. Like dice in craps, if they roll wrong, Carpenter will be back at square one, or rather back on an operating table to have them removed. Carpenter is on track to throw a couple of times this week, and then the normal move would be to go to the minors for a start or two. Since Carpenter is so important to the Cards and because each pitch he throws is risky, I would not be a bit surprised if he went right back into the rotation on a low pitch count instead of wasting those pitches on a minor league rehab assignment.
  • The Braves pushed Bob Wickman to the DL with a confusing injury. Atlanta listed him as out with tendonitis in his upper back, which leaves us with a dizzying area of possibilities. Wickman's quote to the Journal-Constitution's Carroll Rogers gives us our best indication of what the problem is, as he said "I wasn't able to finish my pitches." That's usually something you hear with an elbow injury, but in this case, it seems Wickman is having tightness in the back of his shoulder, which is reducing his extension and follow-through. That tightness could also be tied to a problem in his upper back, such as the lat tendon problem experienced by Ben Sheets and Jake Peavy. By shutting Wickman down to try and ease the problem, the Braves are trying to cut off the possibility of a cascade causing a more serious injury in the short term. The Braves will use Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez in late-game situations, but as I said in yesterday's chat, I don't think Bobby Cox has more trust in one than the other at that point, making it tough to point to one or the other as a better fantasy pickup. Wickman's not likely to be out much more than the minimum here, but I think this is an indication that his season is going to be very up and down, especially if one of the other options steps up and siezes the closer role.
  • Can good news be bad news at the same time, or vice versa? If you're with the Mets, the answer is kinda sorta. Jose Valentin and Orlando Hernandez are both on the DL after tests. Valentin has the more serious injury of the two, a partially torn ACL; he had a similar injury back in 2005, and it cost him nearly three months, although it came in combination with some other injuries. Initial reports indicate that the Mets only expect him to miss a couple of weeks, with the goal being they'll get him back without surgery by strengthening the area and then bracing it. Valentin is motivated by a vesting option for next year that kicks in at 400 plate appearances, but the question is how the knee injury and brace will limit him, both in the field and at bat. This is going to be a big test for the medical staff, but the biggest burden will be placed on Willie Randolph, who will have to balance his team's need carefully during any attempt at letting Valentin play through this.

    With Hernandez, the expectation was that the shoulder pain was likely connected to his neck problem from earlier this spring. The diagnosis of bursitis in his pitching shoulder belies my expectation, though I guess it's possible there was some cascade. Hernandez has plenty of mileage on his arm, so bursitis is one of the least biting of diagnoses. He'll rest for a couple weeks, and assuming there's no pressing need for him, I'd imagine the Mets will take it slow with his rehab assignments. Ideally, someone will step in and allow Hernandez to go to the bullpen, though Chan Ho Park didn't make much of a case with his first start for the Mets on Monday. Philip Humber was named the PCL's Pitcher of the Week last week, though Jorge Sosa and Jason Vargas are more likely to be the next pitchers to be given a look. (Hey! A Clint Nageotte sighting. I had no idea he was pitching in Triple-A New Orleans this year.)

  • Baseball players may not be like hockey players when it comes to an inhuman tolerance of pain, but in the shadow of Mark Prior's surgery, perhaps we should all take a second look at pitchers and ease up questioning their machismo. Jaret Wright tried to pitch through the pain in his chronically damaged shoulder, coming off the DL to do so, but couldn't make it through the game without "significant pain," according to a source. Look at Wright's career line and compare it to Mark Prior's-it's very scary, and a reminder of just how much of a risk young pitchers going well beyond their career highs in innings pitched can be. Wright's already back on the DL, and some are whispering that the Orioles are already moving on, as the experiment of putting Wright and his shredded shoulder back together with Leo Mazzone gets written off. He won't be replaced by Hayden Penn, another Oriole with arm problems, as Penn's having surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. He'll miss much of the minor league season, though in the long term, this type of surgery is seldom a problem to come back from.
  • The Blue Jays may be waiting to see how Gustavo Chacin feels by mid-week before ordering up an MRI, though they didn't hesitate in pushing him to the DL. Chacin had problems with his shoulder during his side session on Monday, and the pain was self-reported as "burning and tight," according to one source. Chacin didn't report any pain during or after his Saturday start, so this is one that appears to be a recovery problem rather than an acute situation. Chacin has had a series of arm injuries, and now becomes the latest in a long line of Jays DL moves, a surprise for a team that was in the top five last season according to my injury stats. Chacin will be replaced by either bringing Josh Towers back from the pen, or by bringing up someone like Dustin McGowan from the minors. Until we have more information or test results, it's impossible to gauge when Chacin will be back, but at this stage, expect more than the 15-day minimum.
  • The Padres don't mean to confuse us with the differing descriptions of the injury to Marcus Giles. They just are. Marcus Giles has been referring to the injury as "torso pain," but at other points, the injury has been referred to in print or on broadcasts as an oblique strain, an intracostal strain and sprain, and bruised ribs. Given the information we have and the mechanism of injury, the most likely culprit is bruised ribs. Giles was injured on a collision play sliding into second base. However, given some of his comments-like saying that he could "blow out" the injury and miss five weeks-there's an indication that it's muscular. The bottom line is that Giles is likely to miss a few days as a precaution against missing weeks with an exacerbation. That, in the end, is the information we really need.

Quick Cuts: Moises Alou raised this season's score to Walls 4, Players 0 when he bounced off the wall hard in Monday's game. He needed two stitches in his chin. The wall stayed in the game. ... The Rangers will have an MRI done on Frank Catalanotto to see what caused the "tearing sensation" he had in his throwing shoulder. Early indications are that it was scar tissue, but the images will be the key. ... The Rangers are also seeing progress from Eric Gagné. He's likely to head to Double-A Frisco by the weekend. ... Padres prospect Cesar Carillo missed much of last season with a forearm problem, and now he's heading back to San Diego from Portland for tests on a painful pitching elbow.

Related Content:  Back,  Shoulder,  Chacin,  Year Of The Injury,  Gustavo Chacin

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